Back in 2014, Netflix unveiled a new logo. Once a DVD rental service, the platform was establishing itself as a landmark company in the world of streamed media. To go along with this shift, Netflix unveiled a series of new shows – original content, rather than back catalogues and dustbin films – which included the eccentrically styled ‘BoJack Horseman’. It was an instant hit, though the critics took a little while to catch up, and BoJack Horseman swiftly became one of Netflix’s giants, going on to be renewed for a further five seasons.
But it isn’t all a fairytale, even though it’s set in Hollywood (letter ‘D’ optional). As the existential workhorse returns for the final time, here are ten facts you might not know about one of Netflix’s biggest shows.
10. The creators nearly made BoJack human
Given that the show’s anthropomorphic look is central to its success, you’d be forgiven for thinking this was the plan all along.
In fact, the use of animal characters was a last minute decision by creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg. In an interview describing his pitch meeting with Netflix executives, he says: “Part of this project was, like, ‘How can I work with my friend Lisa [Hanawalt]?’ – like, that’s a lot of Hollywood, is just, ‘I wanna work with my friends.'”
“I went to her blog, and she’d been kind of drawing these animal people on her own, and so I just, like, printed out a bunch and I was like, ‘Here’s my show! It’s: Animal People!'” They later settled on the name ‘BoJack’ for the lead character, a “naturally horse-y” name.
9. The creator is always in the show
Self-insertion, or creators writing themselves into shows, isn’t uncommon. But – as usual – BoJack Horseman does something a little different.
Blink and you’ll miss it each time, but present in every episode is a silent man wearing a flannel shirt and a flat cap – a design purportedly based on Bob-Waksberg himself.
For a show that’s already full of Easter eggs, that’s a lot of hidden gems to go searching for! Why not try playing the Netflix equivalent of Where’s Wally yourself?
8. Bob-Waksberg also voices LOTS of characters
While the flat capped character is in every episode, Bob-Waksberg does bring his vocal talents to the show.
He plays a variety of smaller characters, such as a Corgi valet and ‘Simon’, but most notably plays the role of feckless agency executive Charley Witherspoon.
In classic BoJack Horseman style, of humanoid animals finding themselves in tremendously difficult situations, Witherspoon is a frog whose sticky hands cause him to smash vases and generally ruin whichever office space he happens to be in.
7. Jessica Biel asked for the show to be even harsher to her
BoJack Horseman is no stranger to the celebrity cameo, usually voiced by the actors themselves, from Daniel Radcliffe to Henry Winkler to Paul McCartney. But few of these characters return as frequently or as hilariously as Jessica Biel.
Introduced as Mr Peanutbutter the dog’s first wife, Biel is sent up as ruthless, shallow, and self-important. But apparently Biel was worried the writers of the show were pulling their punches, and encouraged an even harsher depiction of her character.
Jessica Biel later becomes a fire-worshipping cannibal who encourages the murder and consumption of Zach Braff, so it’s safe to say she got her wish.
6. Patrick Carney’s theme song was just a discarded outtake
The BoJack Horseman theme is excellent, with its dizzying synth backing and aggressive brass crescendo – but it’s trash all the same.
The track was first composed by The Black Keys drummer Patrick Carney to test a Roland Jupiter-4 synthesiser.
The song never would have seen the light of day had Bob-Waksberg not discovered the track and asked permission to use it for the show.
5. The Animaniacs made the show more educational
The show has a broad base of influences, but few would have expected Animaniacs – a frenetic animated sketch show – to make the list.
Bob-Waksberg has said that the show inspired the writers’ room to aim higher with their jokes, rather than focusing on a broad laugh all the time.
“I’ve always been a big fan of aspirational references,” says Bob-Waksberg. “It’s boring if I watch [a show] and get everything.”
4. The crew got BoJack’s pyjamas for Christmas
It’s hard to confirm, but rumour has it that the production crew for the show received a very special present one Christmas: a set of BoJack’s stylish apple-print pyjamas.
BoJack wears these whenever he lounges around his bachelor pad feeling depressed – which accounts for a significant part of the show.
Given how often BoJack is pictured wearing the pyjamas in question, they must be comfortable. That, or he can’t be bothered to buy any other ones.
3. There are real-life table reads
Part of why animated shows are able to operate on low budgets, and why they can be produced quickly – is that the actors providing voice material never meet. Instead, they’ll have separate sessions in a recording booth.
While the voices for the show are indeed recorded solo, BoJack Horseman takes the unusual step of having a table read before each season, so the actors are better able to understand the script and how their characters interact with others at the table.
Given the intensity of some scenes and the dark themes of the show overall – ranging from abortion, to drug addiction and childhood trauma – it’s no surprise that the show’s team felt table reads were necessary, and the show is all the better for them.
2. Its continuity is inspired by comics
When BoJack steals the ‘D’ from the ‘Hollywood’ sign in an attempt to woo Diane, and the residents immediately take up the new ‘Hollywoo’ nomenclature, it’s easy to finger the joke as both hilarious and a pointed satire of the phoniness of Los Angeles.
But this moment didn’t arrive out of the blue: Bob-Waksberg mentions ‘The Tick’ – a comic book series that later became an Amazon Prime show – as a particular influence on the flawless continuity of the show.
In ‘The Tick’, the villainous Chairface Chippendale aims to etch his name into the surface of the moon, but is stopped after only two letters. From then on, the moon is always displayed with an engraved ‘CH’.
1. It’s political correctness gone good
BoJack Horseman has been praised by critics for tackling dark themes and using its animal-based absurdity to shed light on current issues. Most famous is Hank Hippopopalous, a Bill Cosby stand-in, whose history of abuse is put under the spotlight.
Unusually, however, the team behind the show have spoken directly about the power – and responsibility – they have as creators.
In a 2017 Vice interview, Bob-Waksberg remarks: “I think most people who argue for what you might call political correctness, are not actually arguing for censorship. They’re arguing for self-control and self-restraint. They’re arguing for people to be conscious of the power they have, right? And I believe that I have a lot of power, as someone making popular entertainment. I do think we have to be careful about the art we put out.” As a result, the show has been described as one of the first to recognise and amplify the #MeToo movement.